How to Manage Phantom Pain (Treatments & Management Tips)

How to Manage Phantom Pain (Treatments & Management Tips)

Phantom pain is a difficult condition that affects a part of the body that is no longer present. Phantom pain affects people who have lost limbs or digits to injuries, surgery, or other causes. Because the pain is targeting an area that is no longer actually attached to the body, treatment can be difficult.

Causes of Phantom Pain

Phantom pain occurs in people who have lost parts of their bodies. This can occur for a number of reasons.

 

  • Amputations or other surgical procedures
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Diseases such as peripheral vascular disease (caused by diabetes) that can necessitate an amputation

 

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However, this pain occurs where there are actually no longer any limbs and, as such, no nerves present to elicit an authentic pain response. What, then, is the actual cause of this pain?

 

The exact cause of phantom pain isn’t entirely clear, though specialists suppose that its cause lies somewhere in the spine or the brain. These body parts are the hub of our nervous system and most nervous responses travel through the spine before reaching the brain.

 

Magnetic resonance imaging reveals that the neurons (brain cells) in a person’s brain react the same way when they are experiencing phantom pain as they would when they experienced pain in the actual limb.

 

Some research also indicates that the brain reroutes pain information from the missing body part into somewhere else. For example, someone may lose their foot. Since the nervous map for the foot no longer exists, the brain might reroute pain sensations for the foot to respond to a different body part, such as the right hand.

Treating Phantom Pain

The underlying cause of phantom pain seems to be the result of difficulties in nervous system communication. The nervous system may fail to recognize that the relevant body part is no longer attached to the body, or it may reroute sensory information from the missing body part onto another part of the body.

In either case, these unnecessary pain signals can be a source of distress and discomfort in a patient’s life. These treatments may help to ease the pain.

 

  • Peripheral and/or sympathetic nerve blocks can reduce the stimulation of certain nerves. By applying analgesic or deactivating/blocking nerve signaling, this form of treatment can eliminate pain and discomfort.
  • Spinal cord stimulation can help to stimulate and encourage better communication among nerves in the spinal cord region. This can correct any problems that may be causing faulty or irregular pain signaling.
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a form of therapy that applies an electromagnetic coil to the forehead. This unit sends electrical pulses through the nerves in a specific area of the brain. This can help to prevent and eliminate phantom pain.

Phantom pain can be difficult to manage due to the difficulty in identifying the nerves responsible. However, treatments like nerve blockage and spinal cord stimulation from Illinois Pain Management Doctors can help to relieve some of the pain and discomfort caused by this condition.

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